When you think of classical music, you probably think of white-haired old creators. Men who stare out of portraits and are renowned even now for their genius. However, I think that there is a more down-to-earth side to this story. Namely, there are a few funny facts that help to humanize the men behind some of the most widely-known songs in human history. And this week, I’m going to be sharing one of those stories with you.
Now, full disclosure: I don’t really listen to classical music. Sometimes I listen to it while I study based on the idea that it will help me focus. (It does.) I also listened to a lot when I was around five based on my mom’s idea that it would make me smarter. (It didn’t.) Nowadays, I’m not really a fan and definitely not an expert. All I really know about classical music is that while it might seem dense on the outside, it was created by real human people who were tapping into real (and sometimes petty) human emotions. Or, to be more concise, it was made by people who could be just as funny and spiteful as people today. Today, I will be telling a story that shows off some of those petty emotions.
This story is about Mozart.
Pictured: Amadeus Mozart, famed composer and quest character in the cinematic masterpiece “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”
Now, Mozart was commissioned to write the opera “Così fan tutte,” a story about two guys trying to seduce each other’s girlfriends (1). Now, I’m not sure how much Mozart engaged with this subject matter. Given that he was a genius, it might have been pretty low-brow subject matter for him. Now, this is all conjecture on my part, but I think that he had to find a way to entertain himself while writing.
The way he did this was at the expense of the female lead. Her name was Adriana Ferrase del Bene, and she was apparently the arrogant mistress of the other composer working on the piece (1). She had a habit of lowering her head for low notes, and tilting it back for high notes. See where this is going?
Mozart quickly alternated high and low notes during her big number of the piece, with a result that apparently looked like a chicken bobbing its head (1).
The song in question. Listen around the two minute mark for some dramatically shifting notes.
Now, to me that is just hilarious. Imagine changing a major assignment for work, all because your co-worker was slightly annoying. And, even funnier, given his stature this was a minor prank that went down in music history. If that doesn’t make composers seem a little less serious, I don’t know what does.
1: Cheat Sheet: Così fan tutte. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://opera.org.au/home/productions/cosi-fan-tutte/cheat-sheet